Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian, claimed on Wednesday afternoon that he was assaulted by Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate for Montana's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jacobs posted the following message on Twitter just after 5 p.m. on Wednesday: "Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses."
He followed that with: "There was a local TV crew there when Gianforte body slammed me."
MTN News reporter Morgan Davies says that media personnel have been "locked out" of Gianforte's headquarters in Bozeman, and that two Sheriff's Deputies are at the scene.
Davies says that the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office is conducting "an active investigation" into the incident and will be sending out a press release with more information.
We will update you as we get more information.
(UPDATE, 6:29 p.m.) Shane Scanlon, a spokesman for Gianforte, released the following information:
"Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."
(UPDATE, 7:20 p.m.) Jacobs said he was “body-slammed” to the floor when he attempted to interview Gianforte about developments on the health-care bill passed by House Republicans this month.
In a statement, the Gianforte campaign presented a different version of the altercation, saying the two men both fell to the floor while Gianforte attempted to grab Jacobs’ phone that had been “pushed in his face” during an interview with someone else.
Jacobs had been asked to leave and didn’t comply, the statement said.
“It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ,” said Shane Scanlon, spokesman for the Gianforte campaign.
The Gallatin County sheriff’s office said Wednesday evening it’s investigating the assault allegations and will provide more information “when appropriate.”
Gianforte, 56, is competing for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat against Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks.
The race has drawn national attention and nearly $18 million of campaign spending, by the campaigns and nearly two dozen outside groups. The election is Thursday.
In an audio recording posted by the Guardian, Jacobs is heard asking Gianforte about the health-care bill and Gianforte tells him to speak with Scanlon, before a crunch of noise is followed by Gianforte shouting at someone.
“I’m sick and tired of you guys,” Gianforte is heard yelling. “The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here.”
“You just broke my glasses,” Jacobs is heard saying.
The statement from the Gianforte campaign said he’d been giving an interview to someone else in “a private office” when Jacobs entered without permission and “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face.”
After Jacobs declined to lower the recorder, Gianforte attempted to grab the phone, Jacobs grabbed Gianforte’s wrist and spun away from him, pushing them both to the ground, the statement said.